Fitzgerald and O’Grady lead high-profile exits in summer merry-go-round for top counties
IT has turned into one of the most bruising seasons in history for hurling mangers, with no fewer than seven having departed from the top 11 counties, while another -- Galway's John McIntyre -- remains uncertain about his future.
That's quite a cull and, while much of it was self-inflicted as managers opted to resign, the high attrition rate underlines the expectations and the pressures under which bosses operate in the modern game.
Davy Fitzgerald (Waterford), Donal O'Grady (Limerick), Denis Walsh (Cork), Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin (Clare), Joe Dooley (Offaly), Colm Bonnar (Wexford) and Brendan Fennelly (Laois) all quit, while McIntyre's position in Galway remains unclear.
If he departs, it will mean, that of the managers in the top 11 counties, as decided by this year's league, only Brian Cody (Kilkenny), Declan Ryan (Tipperary) and Anthony Daly (Dublin) will return next season.
McIntyre presented his annual report to the Galway Hurling Board on Tuesday night and gave no indication that he intended to step down. However, it remains to be seen if Galway re-appoint him for a fourth successive season after two of their worst championship performances for years against Dublin and Waterford.
Galway Hurling Board chairman Joe Byrne said that clubs would now reflect on what they had heard. A wider review of Galway hurling structures is also under way and Byrne said that it was important that all strands were pulled together to produce a coherent plan for the future.
"There are several elements in this, with the team management being only one," he said.
The management scenario will change if Galway beat Dublin in the All-Ireland U-21 final as Anthony Cunningham would then emerge as a serious contender for the senior job.
A former All-Ireland minor, U-21 and senior hurling winner, he also has wide experience as a club football manager and if he leads Galway U-21s to success on Saturday, the timing could be perfect for him to step up to the senior hurling job.
The football scene has been quieter than usual, with relatively few departures. Tomas O Flaharta (Galway), Mick O'Dwyer (Wicklow) and Tom Cribbin (Offaly) have left, but that's a very low ratio by comparison to hurling.
Gone: Davy Fitzgerald
Appointed: June 2008
C'ship record: P 17, W 9, D2, L6
One Munster title win (2010), one All-Ireland final plus four semi-final appearances saw Fitzgerald stay high on the national rankings during his term, which started after the mid-championship departure of Justin McCarthy in 2008.
Kilkenny and Tipperary were the only counties to beat Waterford in the championship after his arrival, while they beat Galway (twice), Tipperary, Cork, Limerick, Clare, Offaly and Antrim, as well as drawing with Cork and Limerick.
What now? Next Monday night's county board meeting will decide on the process to find a replacement for Fitzgerald. After being managed by outsiders for the past 15 seasons, it's likely that Waterford will shop local this time.
Former All Star, Fergal Hartley, who managed the U-21s this year, Michael Ryan, who did very well with De La Salle in recent years, and former Deise star Stephen Frampton all have their backers.
Gone: Donal O'Grady
Appointed: September 2010
C'ship record: P4, W2, L2
There was big disappointment in Limerick that O'Grady didn't extend his term past one year after a season where they regained stability following the horror show of 2010.
They won promotion to the top flight (although that has been partially undermined by the changes to the NHL) and ran a progressive championship campaign, which augurs well for the future. Limerick also won the U-21 title, which was encouraging.
What now? "We have to begin the job of finding a replacement," said county board chairman Liam Lenihan. "We're very sorry to see Donal go. I had a long conversation with him on Tuesday, but couldn't get him to change his mind. He said he always intended it would be for one year only," said county board chairman Liam Lenihan. Leo O'Connor, who managed the U-21s to Munster glory this year, would have his supporters if he's interested in the top job.
Gone: Colm Bonnar
Appointed: November 2008
C'ship record: P8, W2, L6
Wins over Offaly in 2009 and Antrim this year were Wexford's only championship successes in his three-year term, but then he didn't have the strongest hand to deal from.
What now? Liam Griffin will chair a committee appointed to find a new manager. "Wexford people have to be patient and supportive. Finding a new senior manager is one thing, but a lot of parallel work has to be undertaken throughout all our systems and structures," he said.
Gone: Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughin.
Appointed: December 2009
C'ship record: P4, L4
It was a disappointing term for O'Loughlin as Clare lost championship games to Waterford, Dublin, Tipperary and Galway in 2010-11 and failed to win promotion to Division 1.
What now? The focus switches to Davy Fitzgerald, following his departure from Waterford. He has picked up valuable experience over four seasons in Waterford so the 'home' job seems a logical target.
Clare have enjoyed a few good years at underage level, so the talent flow will be quite good for a new manager.
Gone: Joe Dooley
C'ship record: October 2007
C'ship record: P13, W4, D1, L8
Dublin's big improvement, plus Galway's arrival in Leinster, made life harder than it might have been for Offaly on the provincial scene, while the qualifier draws weren't kind to them either during Dooley's reign.
What now? A committee is trawling through the options as they attempt to find the right man to oversee the next attempt at a renewed Offaly surge.
Gone: Denis Walsh
Appointed: March 2009
C'ship record: P 13, W6, D1, L6
Walsh took over in March 2009 after the latest player v county board bust-up and enjoyed his high point in May 2010, when Cork beat Tipperary in the Munster quarter-final.
However, Cork were unable to build on that. They lost to Tipperary this year, but the biggest wound was inflicted when they were well beaten by Galway in the qualifiers. Walsh was keen to stay on, but the board made it clear they would not reappoint him.
What now? Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who managed Cork from 1996-2000, returns with Johnny Crowley, Ger Cunningham, Kieran Kingston and Seanie McGrath as selectors. Can JBM repeat the achievements of his first term, during which Cork ended a nine-year wait for the All-Ireland title?
Gone: Brendan Fennelly
Appointed: September 2010
C'ship record: P2, L2.
Lost to Antrim and Cork this summer, leaking 10-20 against the latter, spelling the end for Fennelly, even if he was in his first season.
What now? A three-man committee has been set up to find a new manager.
Future uncertain: John McIntyre
Appointed: November 2008
C'ship record: P15, W8, D1, L6
Narrowly beaten in the All-Ireland quarter-finals in 2009 and again last year, but hammered by Waterford this year after being well beaten by Dublin in the Leinster semi-finals. It leaves Galway without an All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 2005, when they went on to contest the final.
What now? It appears McIntyre is keen to stay on, but it remains to be seen if he's reappointed.